Now I attend my share of tastings throughout the year, some more interesting than others. Last Fall I attended 20/20, an all Italian affair hosted by specialist importer Winetraders, with the head honcho and fellow Canuck Michael Palij MW showcasing twenty wineries all working on less than 20 hectares of land. A very intriguing set up and some equally exciting wines.
First to pique my interest were two wines from the tiny 5 hectares of Azienda Agricola Adalia. Located outside Verona, their Valpolicella Ripasso Superiore DOC 2011 smelt invitingly of wet game, liquorice & truffle. On the palate that promised gaminess was there, nicely textured, fine fruit and balanced tannins. Giving AAA’s Amarone della Valpolicella DOC 2009 a good sniff, I got fragrant ripe forest fruit and fudge. In the mouth it was spicy smoky charcoal, sensual yet muscular, with great texture and body.
My Dad’s favorite number is eleven, and it proved lucky indeed as #11 on the tasting sheet was Lambrusco “Fontana dei Boschi” IGT 2010 made by the eccentric and mysterious Vittorio Graziano at his minute property south of Modena in Emilia Romagna. My nostrils are grabbed, and my brain is instantly engaged with it’s very pleasant earthy funky wild sour fruit aromas. Sip. Bam! Socked in the mouth with zip zing mature red fruit, subtle popping spritz and perfectly grained tannins. This grown up wine sang to me truthfully of it’s terroirs and the loving care with which it is produced. Somehow, in a tumbledown cellar, doing everything by hand, Vittorio managed to take a terribly unfashionable grape variety and transform it into my stand out wine of 2013. I loved it!
Numero 13 is considered a bad omen by some, but superstitions were cast aside with a tremendous Lugana Superiore DOC 2010. Aromas of rich honeyed fruit & hints of butter were followed faithfully with smoky, lush buttery floral fruit on the palate. Winemaker Nunzio Ghiraldi tends his Trebbiano di Lugana grapes with great care, to produce a luxurious, fine white wine with an achingly long and dare I say scrummy finish.
Another white of note, Roero Arneis ‘Camestri’ DOCG 2012 is made from the not terribly well known native Italian grape Arneis, which loves the hills of Roero in Piedmont (north-west Italy). Produced by Azienda Agricola Marco Porello it draws you in with subtle but fragrant wet stone and lime leaves. Really enjoyed it’s vibrant flavours of passionfruit, grey slate and the long clean lime finish.
I have become a recent convert to good Dolcetto and Mascarello ‘Bricco’ DOC 2011 is most certainly of the aforementioned ilk. The Mascarello family have been making wine in Lange (Piedmont) since 1881 and their Dolcetto D’Alba (Alba refers to the specific area that the Dolcetto comes from) gives off a beautiful bright berry perfume with hints of candy liquorice cigar. Sipping it, first to arrive is gummy bears, followed by juicy bright happy berry fruit. It’s tannins are supple and is an interesting wine indeed.
Barolo, the “grande vino” of Piedmont made from the Nebbiolo grape is an obsession for many. But it can be notoriously complex and difficult to wrap your taste buds around. It often lacks obvious fruit character and its tannins can leave even a seasoned wino like myself gasping for a glass of water. Not the case with Azienda Agricola Bovio’s brilliantly named ‘Rocchettevino’ DOCG 2008. To my nose wild sour meaty fruit beckoned me to taste. Tea tannins, happy acidity merged with ripe aged fruit and a lovely piece of Christmas cake. I liked it very much.
Before moving onto the sweet wines, I scoffed a few delicious bites to keep my energy up. Twas no surprise that said nibbles were of a very high standard, as the tasting was held at Vinoteca Soho, which one of four excellent wine bars/restaurants/shops dotted around London.
Things got off to a groovy start at the pudding wine table with a jazzy, fizzy little number by the name of ‘Birbet’ Vino da Tavola 2012 from our pal Marco Porello, who is obviously a very talented winemaker. Made from Piedmont’s secret weapon Brachetto, this gently sparkling red, with notes of: pink grapefruit candy on the nose, is unctuous, effervescent, berry gummy (forgive me) yummy and supremely drinkable. Coming in at a very civilised 5% AVB it’s no wonder I fell for it.
The next wine was from Liguria, a lovely coastal province just over the border from France and where some years ago was the backdrop to a memorable holiday romance. Giulaini & Pasini’s ‘Cinque Terre Sciacchetrá’ DOC 2008 left me breathless with aromas of apricot, creme caramel and toasted almonds. On the palate I was seduced by voluptuous peach, firm jasmine tea, melting caramel and a rich sensual finish that lingered so long I lost track of time. Using Bosco, Albarola and Vermentino varieties Cinque Terre Sciacchetrá (Cinque Terre refers to the dramatic coastline where the wines come from) is produced in the Passito method, sometimes referred to as Straw Wine, where ripe grapes are left to dry on ventilated racks, thus intensifying their sweetness. This particular amber goddess left me swooning, starry eyed, taking me back to that small town of Riva Ligure, lo those many moons ago.
Despite my lightheaded state I soldiered on and am glad I did because next was the fabulously delicious Azienda Agricola Ferrandes Passito di Pantelleria DOC 2006. Pantelleria (which does sound like a great place to buy Italian undergarments) is a tiny island south of Sicily and is renowned for it’s sweet wines. Winemaker Salvatore and his wife, Dominica produce their superb Passito on just two hectares of land from Muscat of Alexandria but is known locally as Zibibbo (a great name for a 6th Marx brother if you asked me). Lifting it to my stout I’m a bit taken aback, what’s that on the nose? Well I’ll be… it’s inviting warm gingerbread and baked peach, then tasting it, my mouth is coated in luxurious caramel and intense apricot. The finish is long and fine. Bravo!
Goodness, I really enjoyed that. What a treat it was to sample wines made in such small quantities with real dedication, passion and creativity.
The wines are available through various UK merchants, so do drop Winetraders a message for further info.
A special thanks to Emanuele at R&R Teamwork for inviting me along.