There are 200 kilometres separating the two northern Italian reds we tasted on Sunday; one wine from Piedmont and the other from the Valtelline, an Alpine valley. They showed quite differently despite both being dominated by the Nebbiolo grape and having undergone a fair amount of ageing in wood and bottle.
The Toraccia del Piantavigna 2007 is a DOCG Ghemme from Piedmont and is made from two grapes, Nebbiolo and Vespolina (10%). It’s ABV is 14%. It has to be aged for a minimum of 34 months. 18 months min. in barrel and 6 months min. in bottle which makes me wonder where the other 10 months could be spent. No matter, but if anyone can venture a suggestion ….
It had the typical Nebbiolo colours of brick rim and red core. The nose was a powerful smoky and farmyard mixture (slightly oxidised?) that was certainly attractive and sweetened by a mature cherry fruit smell. The palate was definitely dry, tannic and again reminiscent of sour cherries. It is difficult to pin down these flavours and smells but I thought it like unripe black fruits, picked just before they’re ready – an amalgam of the sweet and sour. Unlike the older Valtellina, this had some power left and will get finer; Nebbiolo is always worth waiting for. Bags of character and certainly a food wine – game meat would be ideal.
[Richard: from a mixed vintage half case of Torraccia wines (WS). We blogged the 2003 a while ago. I didn’t think this vintage was quite as good but it was still an appealing drink with lots of interesting flavours.]
The older wine was a Valtellina Valgella Balgera 2001 which Geoff picked up in Loki Wines. This was another Nebbiolo, called Chiavennasca in this region. The Valgella subdivision is reputed to produce the most delicate wines in the area but I drink very little Nebbiolo and couldn’t confidently identify it. Nonetheless, a brick red appearance with obvious age on the rim, a clean fruity/floral nose leading to a long, savoury flavoursome dry finish which was slightly less impressive than the nose led you to expect. Quite lean in the mouth in the style of a Rioja and definitely a food wine.
[Geoff: At the risk of sounding like an old fashioned wine critic, the Valtellina was an old Lady of a wine. She has grown old gracefully, become lean, beautifully – but subtly – fragranced, and yet still entertaining. I enjoyed sipping what was left with food and it did not pall. Most of the nebbiolo (especially in Barolo) we drink is sold and consumed way too young; it’s not a big wine but many people think it is. I’m generally not a lover of old red wine but old nebbiolo is one I do enjoy]
We’ve drunk (and blogged) a few cabernet francs from the Loire, over the years but I don’t recall an Italian version (Mazzolada, La Cantina del Falco, Venezia). Bright red, intriguing, spicy nose with a hint of tobacco, sweet ripe red fruits – raspberry but with enough of a tannic grip to make it interesting. Hardly any of the grassy tone which is a characteristic of Loire produced wines. A perfect drink for a hot summer evening (12.5%), especially if lightly chilled.
[Geoff: Purchased from Worth Brothers in Lichfield. Cab Franc is one of my ‘go to’ grape varieties and certainly did not disappoint. Two days later (kept vacuumed in the fridge) it was still fresh and showing blackcurrant leaf flavours. Lovely. Yet another northern Italian wine I’ve been impressed with.}
There are some things that one does not expect to hear; one of them being Richard saying “I like this” when referring to that popular north-east Italian sparkler Prosecco. But he did say it! Honestly.
Sottoriva Col Fondo Malibran is a low sulphur sparkler made from the Glera grape in the Veneto region. It’s frizzante rather than spumante which is to its benefit. It is crown corked (beer bottle top) and has an ABV of 11%. The sulphites are low and it has undergone a spontaneous refermentation. I am unsure as to whether that is using wild yeasts (more authentic than cultured yeasts) and/or the second fermentation takes place naturally as the weather warms in the spring. The web-site is as unclear on this as was the wine. The cloudiness was very apparent and reminded us of drinking bottle-conditioned beer.
So, light lemon, slightly green to look at with a gentle mousse. The smell was citrussy, delicate and not sugary like many Proseccos. The taste was definitely dry, of medium length and with an edge of bitterness which gave it a structured finish. Not a complex wine but its authenticity was there to taste. A very interesting wine, especially for us wine geeks. Not one for a mass-market.
[Richard, from Buon Vino, about £16. Prosecco in name only, which is why I liked it.]
The Campania wine region, situated on Italy’s west coast, close to Naples, is hot but benefits from sea breezes and vineyards at high altitudes thereby cooler. These cooling elements are vital to maintain acidity levels in the wines which keep them fresh. The Fiano grape, a native of Campania, is recognised for its robust qualities as well as its waxy style. The wine we tried on Sunday had both but, rather disappointingly, lacked character.
Clear, hay yellow with very subtle green tinges, the weight was quite evident in its ‘tears’. The aromas were of lemon curd and with subtle ginger spice smells (Richard) but the ensuing taste was an anticlimax. Certainly dry and forthright in taste, there was a hint of almonds but it wasn’t very appealing and didn’t improve either, according to Richard. It just lacked some quality and some memorable flavour.
It’s 100% organic, available from the Buon Vino company at £14.95.
[Richard: low sulphur and organic, as well as natural, only 12% but all that wasn’t a substitute for the lack of character – something often missing, as Geoff remarked, in Italian whites. Not unpleasant and with a slight smokey aroma but, ultimately, not very interesting and thus, overpriced.]
Which country has the most indigenous grape varieties? Possibly a question with no definitive answer but Italy must be a possibility. Here’s another new one, from MWW – Albarossa. Apparently a cross between Nebbiolo and Barbera although it didn’t taste anything like the former to me. Anyway, slightly soupy appearance, rather spirity nose with a hint of acetone and red fruit. Fruit – MWW claim cherry which is too specific for me – also on the palate but a rather simple taste with no development in the mouth and rather short. The sort of wine you find on holiday at a bargain price and drink loads of. For the money (£9 if you buy 6) good value.
[Geoff: As Richard has written, an okay (not oakey) red, easy drinking, crowd pleasing, pasta accompanying, slurping red. A hybrid grape made in 1937; not strictly Nebbiolo.]
After a couple of recent poor experiences with Tesco’s we gave them a chance to redeem themselves with a DOCG Franciacorta made by Castel Faglia. This traditionally made, sparkling wine is not often seen in the UK, certainly not in mainstream outlets, so I was glad of the chance to put one before the R & G tasting panel. It weighs in at 12.5% ABV and is a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc.
The fine mousse bubbled through the green/yellow liquid and the nose, initially coy, started to develop some yeasty aromas – but not as pronounced as the advertising blurb promised. The taste was dominated by malic acid, even greener than a Granny Smith apple, but not unpleasantly so. Definitely dry, certainly crisp and of medium length it was a palate cleansing gulp, a real clean aperitivo – and so much brisker than the sweeter Prosecco styles. In fact, it would outshine many of the cheaper champagnes which are now bubbling over the supermarket shelves.
Great value at £15, it’s worth loading into your supermarket trolley.
[Richard: a pleasant surprise. Despite the grapes used it’s clearly not champagne, not least because of the virtually non-existent aroma. Very dry, quite moreish and, as G says, a perfect aperitif.]
Years ago when we visited Italy for summer holidays a favourite drink was chilled sparkling lambrusco. Only a few euros (or even lira) from local supermarkets, low alcohol, cherry flavours and, above all, bone dry.
Impossible to find in the UK (although I recall Sainsbury sold one for a while). All we could get was sweet lambrusco, a party wine, the prosecco of its day.
More recently the Wine Society have started selling a dry version which we have both bought, though it’s never been blogged.
All this is a precursor to the bottle above which Geoff planned to finish off with a pizza. Medium red in colour, bright, slight mousse. An intriguing smell, mainly strawberries with some, pleasant, sourness. Unfortunately it was sweet – something not revealed on the label – and thus not to our taste. Oh dear.
[Geoff: OMG, if that’s Tesco’s Finest ….. It was like revisiting the 1980s, sugar-rich, no tannin, short and fizzy. It would not go with any food I could think of. Which is a real shame because well-made Lambrusco is a lovely match with pizza. This is the second wine we’ve tried from Tesco’s recently, the other being a vintage champagne (see previous post) which was also way too sweet and uncharacteristic of the region. Well, at least they’re getting their finances sorted out. Probably by buying cheap wine?]