On the Road with the Grape Guy

On the Road with the Grape Guy is a on-going feature that follows me from event to event ... I post my thoughts, feelings and reviews of what happened and what I tasted ... basically it is here that I review the events I attend and the things that thrilled me.

Abruzzo : “The Charming Taste of Europe”

18 Jan 2022

Abruzzo(November 2021) ... Lots of interesting information delivered about the Abruzzo region of Italy – so much so that wanting to go visit jumped up a few notches on my “places-to-go-and-taste” bucket list.

The winemakers and owners that spoke sold the idea of skiing in the morning and going to the beach in the afternoon - seeing that they have both activities available within 30 to 40 minutes of each other, and they can be done on the same day every day. For the outdoor adventurer, the wines they offer up range from the beautiful Pecorino and Trebbiano D’Abruzzo (whites) and the mainstay of the region, Montepulciano d'Abruzzo (red) – maybe the most confusing grape in the Italian lexicon of indigenous grapes. Interesting to note that the area has been paying Montepulciano (Tuscany) for the use of the name up until very recently

 

The Territory

Abruzzo and NicIt lies between the Adriatic Sea and the Grand Sasso mountain (approximately 3,000 m in height); it also has three national parks and more than 10 national and regional nature reserves (making up 30% of the territory). The mountainous area takes up more than 65% of the entire regional territory. The region also has great diurnal temperature fluctuation because of its makeup – thus allowing the grapes to heat up during the day and cool at night – a situation perfect for grape growing.

Abruzzo is broken down into four provinces: Chieti - which is 83% planted (the most of any province), followed by Pescara (10%), Teramo (6%), and L'Aquila (less than 1%) ... Total planting in the region is 34,000 hectares of which 17,000 of those hectares is dedicated to Montepulciano d'Abruzzo.

Abruzzo produces 1.2 million bottles of which 65% is sent abroad (19% to Germany, 13% to USA, 11% to Canada, and 10% to the UK); there are approximately 10,000 producers and over 250 wineries (and 35+ cooperatives). The region also breaks down it's designated areas with three IGTs and 5 DOCs, by 2022 there will be a shift towards subregions and sub zones and then even down to communes and specific vineyards: "it's a very exciting time for Abruzzo", reports one producer with a gleam in his eye.

 

Note About the Grapes ...

Trebbiano d’Abruzzo (DOC) … a totally different version of this Italian staple grape then those found anywhere else ... Trebbiano is not necessarily a grape variety as much as it is a family of grapes.

Cerasuolo d'Abruzzo (DOC) ... This is a rosé made from Montepulciano d'Abruzzo, but the grape variety’s name is not allowed to appear on the bottle – it is also the first Italian denomination dedicated to rosé wine.

Abruzzo Pecorino (DOC) … This grape is part of the Trebbiano family and there's an interesting backstory about how it got its name. During harvest time, sheep would be shepherded through the vineyard, as they went by the now ripe grapes they would eat them - the farmers, as an apology, would bring them back the sheep's milk cheese that they would make. That cheese of course, was Pecorino.

Montepulciano d'Abruzzo (DOC) ... This is the big gun, the one we all know about. The one they do almost everything with. If it's red, it's Montepulciano d'Abruzzo and it can be made in stainless steel, barrel fermented, lightly aged in oak or long aged in oak and everything in between. This is what the region is truly known for. It makes up 50% of all roots in vineyards, or a staggering 17,000 hectares.

The Wines ...

Biagi 2019 Retro, Montepulciano d'Abruzzo BIagi
This 100% Montepulciano is aged 6 months in barrique but the older kind and then it sees stainless before bottling ... The fruity characteristics come right out in the form of red cherry, black cherry, plus a little bit of tannin - quite enjoyable with a nice finish.  (****)

Bosco Nestore 2018 Linea Storica, Montepulciano d'Abruzzo
Pretty typical of the region. This 100% Montepulciano is full of cherry fruit and is silky across the tongue - quite easy drinking.  (*** ½)

Bosco Nestore 2017 Pan, Montepulciano d'Abruzzo
Another 100% Montepulciano, this time a little more rustic in nature with black cherry, and some smoky character, plus spices like cinnamon and clove there’s also some notes of strawberry and balsamic on the finish.  (*** ½+)

Cantina Tollo 2016 Mo, Montepulciano d'Abruzzo
A basic, but tasty, version of Montepulciano: black cherry, blackberry and a little bit of smoke all touched by a little cedary note on the finish. Give it a little time in the cellar and this should mellow out and reward.  (*** ½+)

Collefrisio 2017 Vignaquadra, Montepulciano d'Abruzzo
Right from first sip this one comes across totally juicy with lovely blackberry notes, then in sweep some vanilla, licorice and cinnamon to give it a little extra kick.  (*** ½+)

Ettore Galasso 2020 Lampasso, Montepulciano d'Abruzzo
This 100% Montepulciano, done in the appassimento style – but with a twist, without use of oak. The grapes lose about 50% of their water weight, concentrating them to 14% alcohol: sweet black fruit with subtle smoke and good tannins.  (*** ½)

Jasci & Marchesani 2020 Montepulciano D'Abruzzo
Another basic but juicy model of Montepulciano: “lightly passed” through oak barrels (3-6 months) – cherry, plum and spice all the way.  (*** ½)

RudhirJasci & Marchesani 2018 Rudhir
A Montepulciano that spends 18 months in 2-year-old barrels. In bottle it delivers on absolute yumminess ... Lovely spiced-cherry, smoked-plum and coffee bean accost the nose, with raspberry and strawberry joining in on the palate. It is a fruit / spice dominant bomb of a wine - with a lingering finish. Might need a little more time in the cellar to come fully comes together, but it drinks nicely right now.  (****+)

Fattoria La Valentina 2018 La Valentina, Montepulciano d'Abruzzo
Only 20% of this wine sees oak (large 25 hectoliter barrels), none of them new and that allows the fruit to shine as it is fresh and lively with a very fruit-driven core showing lots of primary red fruits; there's also a lovely texture on the finish.  (*** ½+)

Masciarelli 2018 Castello di Semivicoli, Trebbiano d’Abruzzo
A wine made from Trebbiano d'Abruzzo, not to be confused with any other kind of Trebbiano you may have had - this one's fresh and fun with pineapple and citrus, a nice minerality, lively on the palate with good texture, there’s even a slight salty note with a fun little bit of a smoky character on the finish.  (****)

Masciarelli 2017 Marina Cvetic, Montepulciano d'Abruzzo Riserva Marina
This Montepulciano sees 12 to 18 months in first and second passage, French oak barriques (those are the small ones), but it's a nice use of oak, as the fruit still shines through: black, cherry and blackberry with a good smoky character, plus a touch of vanilla and cinnamon. The oak brings out a robust and punchy character to the finish.  (****)

Masciarelli 2015 Villa Gemma, Montepulciano d'Abruzzo Riserva
This Montepulciano spends 24 months in oak, all new, all French. Sweet cherry, vanilla, coffee, and leathery with a smoky finish - there's a long life ahead of this wine. So, a good 5-to-10 years in the cellar won't hurt it a bit.  (****+)

Nic Tartaglia 2020 Pecorino, Colline Pescaresi
Lots of mineral freshness here, including fruits like pear and pineapple with a delicate smokiness. These vines were planted in 2016 and already show a really lovely minerality.  (*** ½)

Nic RoseNic Tartaglia 2020 Cerasuolo d'Abruzzo
Cerasuolo is really a “red wine masquerading as a white,” made from Montepulciano, yet they can’t say it on the label, and made in a rosé style. Yet seems to have more texture and even a little bit of tannin on the palate. Nice acidity, good texture and body, with some citrus and cran-apple, plus cherry and raspberry, this is a wine that will match with so many foods.  (****)

Novaripa 2020 Sotto di Ciele. Montepulciano D’Abruzzo
Seems like a simple version of Montepulciano, but then you realize how much it is over delivering for a wine that's just kissed by oak. Look this is a drink now wine but it's got lots of dark fruit and spice with blackberry, black cherry and spiced plum. It's absolutely delicious and worth every penny. It's what you want your Montepulciano to be. (****)

Orlandi Contucci Ponno 2020 Abruzzo Pecorino Superiore
A lovely Pecorino that's salty and minerally but also backed by lots of pineapple, lemon zest and apple.  (*** ½)

Orlandi Contucci Ponno 2020 Rubiolo, Montepulciano d'Abruzzo
A simple Montepulciano d'Abruzzo with its red cherry fruit, namely raspberry, strawberry, plus blackberry and smoke; but even the simplest wines from this grape seem to be delicious.  (*** ½+)

Paride D'Angelo 2020 Pecorino, Colline Pescaresi (organic)
This 100% Pecorino goes through wild fermentation then 6 months in stainless steel tanks ... It's nice and dry and crisp, seems to come across a little linear on the palate with its minerality and saltiness, but then incomes pineapple, green, apple, citrus, and good acidity mid-palate to finish. It’s that good acidic seam that keeps this wine fresh and lively with a really long appealing finish.  (****)

Paride D'Angelo 2016 Montepulciano d'Abruzzo Riserva (organic)
Smoky black cherry starts off the big dark fruit component. This wine spends one year in new French tonneau (large barrels) - and 1 month in stainless steel with only 1300 bottles being produced.  (*** ½)

Podere Colle San Massimo 2020 Abruzzo Pecorino
Crisp and refreshing with a salty mineral component. Perfect for seafood.  (*** ½)

Podere Colle San Massimo 2019 Colle Rosso, Montepulciano d'Abruzzo
Simple Montepulciano with no oak aging. Shows lots of blackberry, black cherry and smoky notes, but it’s also quite friendly on the palate.  (*** ½)

Tenute Secolo IX 2020 Fonte Grotta
Made from a special “Moscato biotype": Casariense. Really nice minerality here, which really is surprising, considering the sweet nose and entry onto the palate. It starts with floral and sweet fruit, but ends with dry minerality and gives you a real “Wow Effect”.  (****)

Tenuta Secolo IX 2015 Moscatello Passito
What a lovely little bottle of dessert wine, with its honey, peach and apricot notes plus green apple and some delicate spice. It really is a “wow” kind of wine made with a very unique grape variety: Moscatello di Castigliane a Casauria.  (****+)

The Family Estates 2018 Torre Zambro Colle Maggio, Montepulciano d'Abruzzo
This Montepulciano is barrel aged for 6 months. Has nice texture and weight with a little bacon fat and blackberry, plus black cherry, vanilla and cedar.  (*** ½+)

 

Milano Wine Week - "Digital Wine Week" (part 2)

17 Dec 2021

 

(October 2021) ... Trust the Italians to come roaring out of the gate to create a wine “event” virtually during a pandemic that is the “first wine event in history to connect the city of Milan with 11 metropolises worldwide in seven key export markets - the USA, Canada, the UK, Russia, China, Hong Kong and Japan.”
 
For the Toronto market six “Masterclasses” we're arranged, three on the Monday (October 4th) and three on the Tuesday (October 5th) simulcast from Milan to a room at the Dymon Wine Cellar bracket which is a beautiful place unto itself - and Canada's largest wine storage facility.

On this, the second day of the “Masterclasses” and tastings the three topics were Asti Spumante and Moscato d'Asti (the second of these is a real guilty pleasure of mine); Brunello Riserva and a look at the “Hinterland Vineyards of Monte Zovo”.

Bubbles Bubbles Everywhere ... (Masterclass I)

Moscato MasterclassThis was the largest of any of the tastings on any of the two days - 13 wines in total – and a great way to start the day. The full title of the class was “Asti Spumante and Moscato d'Asti: Join the Wines From the First UNESCO Winemaking District of Italy”. As the long title suggests, this area was the first UNESCO heritage site and the first to receive that designation in Italy. Here they have approximately 10,000 hectares in production making 90 million bottles annually, and in 2021 it is said they will pass the 100 million bottle mark. The Consorzio representing these two wines was established in 1932, and the region got DOCG designation around 1967. The biggest market for these wines is the United States, which gobbles up 80% of the exported wines from the region. And the origins of these wines start in the late 1800s ... Asti Spumante being the more traditional starts in the 1890s, while Moscato d'Asti is a relative newcomer, being born in the 1950s.

The wines of choice ... (the top six of the 13) - in no particular order

Matteo Soria Asti DOCG Brut “Prima Bella”
Nice refreshing wine made in a dryer style: lemon, apple and floral takes center-stage with nice length to the finish - and that finish has an almost mineral characteristic. “I could drink the hell out of that” – anonymous.  (*** ½+)

Casa Vinacola Marenco 2020 Moscato d'Asti DOCG “Scrapona”
A single vineyard Moscato that delivers that traditional light effervescence, plus peachy, apricot, pineapple, mineral and balancing acidity; it goes in sweet but finishes dry - no cloying-ness here and excellent length.  (*** ½+)

Cantina Bava 2020 Moscato d'Asti DOCG “Bassa Tuba”
The Cantina makes two d’Asti (as far as I can figure) they started in the 1950s and then created this version in 1992, as they were looking for a richer style: pineapple, peach, lemon, floral, mango, and guava - this one delivers on more tropical fruits with a nice complexity and richness on the palate - nice job here.  (*** ½+)

I Vignaioli Di S Stefano Moscato d'Asti DOCG
There's an element of dryness here among the apricot, peach, pineapple and apple fruit ... There's even a subtle herbal / savory character, which brings this one up from "typical" to "interesting".  (*** ½)

Cantina Sociale di Vinchio Vaglio Serra 2020 Moscato d'Asti DOCG
This was one of those “wow” Moscato's because of the complex layering of aromas and flavours. On the nose there's a subtle pine note then we get the usual white peach, apple, pineapple and citrus undertones - incredibly drinkable with its dry-ish finish that makes it quaffable without being cloyingly sweet. Pure yum.  (*** ½+)

Cantina Sociale Di Alice Bel Colle 2020 Moscato d'Asti DOCG ‘Paie’
Probably my shortest review of the six wines, but no less enticing: nose of ginger ale and pineapple, while the palate has peach, ginger and an almost spicy character. Nice balancing acidity helps keep the palate fresh.  (*** ½+)

Masterclass 2: "Brunello, Le Riserva"

Brunello MasterclassSeven Brunello's that have spent a little more time aging and all from one hell of vintage (2015) ... And while all seven selections were a delight, I'll put up my top five here:

The Wines ... Brunello Riserva 2015

Talenti 2015 Pian di Conte - Brunello de Montalcino Riserva DOCG
This Brunello is made with grapes sourced from 40-year-old vines, age 24 months in cask - then bottle-aged: First things first - the acidity here is upfront and - it really holds the wine together. There's also a slighttouch of VA on the nose - but that does not translate to the palate. Licorice, balsamic, earthy and sour cherry with a rich mouthfeel loaded with spiced fruits like cherry and strawberry. Quite an intense experience.  (*** ½+)

Sassodisole 2015 Brunello di Montalcino Riserva DOCG
Nothing but basic, simple and tasty Brunello here - floral notes on the nose, there's a sort of lean fruit character on the palate, with red and sour cherry plus blackberry and hints of balsamic on the finish ... Nothing is “in your face” but it's also very enjoyable and a delicious sip.  (*** ½+)

Col di Lama 2015 Brunello di Montalcino Riserva DOCG
This is a small producer farming a mere 8-hectare piece of land using wild fermentation practices and leaving the wine in cask 24 months (or so). A big cherry nose with blackberry, cola, fig, cigar, wild blueberry, and brambly notes with good acidity on the finish. The fruit here is lush on the palate and finishes with some woodsy, smoky and good tannic bite.  (****)

Caparzo 2015 Brunello de Montalcino Riserva DOCG
A real mix of tartness from the acidity and richness from the fruit. The nose is full of lovely cherry, licorice, tobacco, smoke and balsamic, which follows onto the palate - the acid punches back at the fruit and the tannins are silky, but certainly present, which keeps the wine very balanced.  (****)

Fattoria dei Barbi 2015 Brunello di Riserva DOCG
This wine spends 3 years in oak and is a selection of the best grapes from the oldest vineyards; it is only made in selected years (in recent memory there was no Riserva made in 2009/2002/2014). It's earthy and seemingly lean but with smoky notes, juicy red fruit, dried cherry, fig, balsamic and a big tannin bite. Quite the revelation as there is just great balance in this wine - nothing overwhelms or under delivers ... though it does need time to fully integrate and open.  (****+)

Masterclass III : The Terroirs of the Lake Hinterland and Related Single Vineyards of Azienda Agricola Monte Zovo

Monte Zovo MasterclassDelivered to us by owner Diego Cottini who presented five very interesting single vineyard wines; like their peachy, salty-minerally and citrus pith / zest version of Pinot Grigio (2019 Wohlgemuth) that also showed apple notes and a little weight. A Corvina-based Rosato (2019 Phasianus) that was light in both color and flavour doling out peach skin and peach pit along with strawberry and lemon / lime notes. And a Pinot Nero (2017 Crocevento) from the Garda region on a two-hectare vineyard located between 700 and 800 m above sea level; an interesting version of Pinot that showed typicity of Pinot Noir (sour cherry, earthy, violets) and unique characteristics (tar, smoky-licorice, pomegranate) plus dried strawberry and red currants.

Before we get into the two best wines, I'm reminded of the best word play from the class which happened to be this: "every year a winemaker must fight against the sky to create their wine.”

Monte Zovo 2020 Oltremonte Sauvignon Verona IGT
A Sauvignon Blanc started in 2012 from an 8-hectare plot sitting at 800 to 900 m above sea level. There's more to the wine than meets the nose or palate - but let's try to describe it here: there's a lovely grapefruit zest note with plenty of other citrus characteristics plus a touch of vanilla cream ... Rich and generous with a creamy texture across the mid palate; all with great freshness and length.  (*** ½+)

Monte Zovo 2016 Calinverno Rosso Veronese IGT
A red blend of Corvina / Corvinone / Cabernet Sauvignon (5%) and Croatina dried on the vine and late harvested, all taken from a 12-hectare plot at 280 m above sea level and aged 2 years in oak. The fruit is cold fermented for 1 month - and when the fresh grapes come in they weigh 600 kg per hectare, and once the drying process is complete they weigh between 300 and 400 kilograms per hectare. This is a wine that's rich and round with licorice, spiced-plum, coffee / latte, blood orange, cocoa – while both the acidity and tannins help to create a complete and complex drinking experience that finishes long and almost luxurious with a subtle vanilla tinge. A 15% alcohol creates the sweet finish perception.  (****+)

 

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