Another interesting wine from Richard’s Italian case. This time from Puglia – the ‘heel’ – a region that contributes most wine to Italy’s production (17%); the majority, over 80%, being red. Its largely flat landscape means that the cooling sea winds on three sides of the region are very important as are the techniques to help protect the grapes from the direct sunshine. The grape Nero di Troia, previously Uva di Troia, has no link to the legendary city but refers to a Puglian village of the same name. It makes an early maturing wine of high tannins and is often blended.
The wine was from the makers Rasciatano, from the 2011 vintage, and had the IGT Puglia designation. The colour indicated the early-maturing trait being distinctly brick red on the rim with an intense red core. The Italian giveaway to me was the sour cherry nose (I posed Sangiovese and Nebbiolo first) which was then confirmed on the palate. Tannins and acidity were nicely in balance, there was a slightly graphite initial taste but the wine ended long and dry. Definitely a wine to enjoy with strong flavoured foods, this was another good wine on our Italian trip.
[Richard: another good one from TWS (£21). Lots of fruit married with some complexity made for an enjoyable, if slightly overpriced, drink.]
This wine is another northern Italian red, part of a mixed case Richard bought a few months back. We blogged the impressive Valtellina recently and now we’ve moved further south, towards Milan, for a Fara DOC. I tried it blind and stabbed at both Pinot Noir and Syrah (its delicate aroma) before fixing on Nebbiola, the grape that dominates (70%) the blend. The other grapes are the waspish Vespolina and Uva Rare. It has spent nearly three years in French oak and a further nine months in bottle before release. This ageing will soften the tannins that can be obtrusive in young Nebbiola.
A distinctive brick colour edged the wine which was of medium intensity red. The nose was very perfumed, delicate, sweet and floral rather than fruity. The tannins were present but didn’t dominate rather giving it some structure, this would be a great food wine. Its lightness belied the 14% ABV. With a long finish that hinted of liquorice, it was a well-made, attractive wine and one worth its £23 price tag (Wine Society).
Two down out of this Italian case and both impressive.
[Richard: this case is turning out to be an interesting buy – although the first bottle tried (Taurasi, Feudi di San Gregorio 2011, not blogged) was ordinary. Still drinking well on day 2. A stylish wine, if a little pricey for what is a an obscure appellation, although production is small and it scored very highly in a Decanter tasting.]
The Tannat grape is native to south west France where it traditionally produces wines described as ‘rustic’, Madiran probably being the most well-known. It has also received plaudits in Uruguay which seems to produce a softer, fruitier style of wine then France. This wine, however, came from the far north of Greece, hard by the Macedonian border. Utopia 2011, made by Alpha Estate, is 100% Tannat and weighs in at 14% ABV.
The pronounced colour left a ruby stain on the glass when the wine was swirled. Some pigment there then. There was a delightful fresh nose, slightly menthol and blackcurrant, with an underlying smokey and vanilla perfume suggesting barrel- ageing. So far so good.
Richard had the palate description spot on – “hollow” – which was a disappointment after the pleasures of the smell. It was lacking richness and depth and could be described as ordinary red wine. The smell was better then the taste. This seems to have matured quickly, quite the opposite to its French equivalent which is, to be kind, rather austere for at least ten years.
[Richard: whenever I’m in Birmingham I try to call in to the Greek shop just outside New Street station. An interesting selection of wine and food and where this bottle was purchased, for around £10. As Geoff says you don’t expect to see Tannat in Greece and this made me want to try it. Alpha wines are always good quality and this is well made, with an enticing nose but the taste is acceptable without being special. An interesting experiment but I think Greek wines are better made with native grapes. Off to Crete shortly and hoping to try a few.]
Sauvignon, that is. Unmistakeable, an enticing nose with hints of menthol. Open for 48 hours under vacuum when I tried it, very deep red, brown rim, rich taste with lots of fruit and a lovely mouthfeel. Very enjoyable and we both had a second glass. Not French as I first though but Australian (Katnook Estate, 2012, CS), my second guess.
[Geoff: A confession – my prejudiced view of Australian wines has limited my experience of them. Hefty, jammy and clumsy has previously been my opinion. That is, until recently when I’ve been impressed with CSs from western Australia (blogged) and now this beauty from Limestone Ridge’s Coonawarra district. The famous red soil, overlaying limestone, is noted for its Cabernets which benefit from cloud cover and cooling breezes. This was a rich, black-fruit, silky mouthful with some attractive complexity. As Richard said, very enjoyable. Interestingly, Katnook Winery occupies the original sight of the area’s first commercial winery, started by James Riddoch in 1896.]
Inferno, the Italian word for hell, is a sub-region of the dramatic Valtellina region in the north of Piedmont, close by the Swiss border. A look on the Internet will reveal just how dramatic this small wine producing region is. Steep slopes (necessitating hand-harvesting), terracing and kilometres of stone walls are the oenological facts of life in this region. Inferno is the warmest part of the Valtellina (hence the name) but the south-facing slopes enjoy a huge diurnal temperature range, giving both ripeness of fruit and delicate acidity levels. The dominant grape (min. 90%) for this DOCG is the Chivanesca, AKA Nebbiolo.
Inferno DOCG, Valtellina Superiore 2013 (13.5%) is an impressive wine. Richard purchased it as part of a mixed Italian case and if the others are as good – and as interesting – as this he should be well-pleased with the WS. (Will he admit it, though?). Very light red in colour with a slight brick rim and a nose slow to develop, it rather underplayed itself at the start. However, the typical Italian cherry-tartness flavour was polished and stylish with very delicate floral notes. What was remarkable was the lack of obtrusive tannins that young Barolos (same grape) have; it was as if a 40 year old Barolo had aged in four years.
A new one for me, I’ve not tasted a Valtellina before. Really interesting, well worth trying – I’m looking forward to the others!
[Richard: I wasn’t quite so keen as Geoff. Certainly an interesting expression of the nebbiolo grape which developed over the evening but I felt the whole thing was rather too delicate, especially at £19.50.]
This wine had a grassy nose I felt sure was cabernet franc from the Loire. It wasn’t. The taste was silky and textured but I couldn’t get a distinctive grape. I was pretty sure it was New World/Australian but couldn’t get any closer – my knowledge of Australian wine regions is rudimentary at best.
In fact a cabernet sauvignon but one which, for me, lacked classic CS characteristics. Good wine though – recommended. The M&S webpage (£90 for 6) says there is 20% Merlot which may account for my puzzlement.
[Geoff: I bought this because of the reputation of the Margaret River area for Bordeaux blends. I wasn’t disappointed and expected the forward-fruity style. What was attractive to me was the edge of unripeness/herbaceousness (Richard’s “grassy”) that saved it becoming too plump and sweet (my issue for with Oz wines). A good wine, well made and easy to drink – if a little lacking in complexity.
Aah, the search for complexity – the curse of the wine buff.]
Sunday tasting. Two wines, the same grape – syrah – from different continents, a similar price with us each opening and tasting one of them the night before. Would we be able to identify them if tasted blind? How good was our taste memory? (Claire, Geoff’s wife did the pouring in our absence). In fact it was pretty easy, even from the nose.
The wines: Cline 2012 (California) and Hermitage 2014 (France, from the Cave de Tain co-op). The Cline has been blogged before. We thought MWW had sold out but a few more turned up, around £16. The Hermitage was from Waitrose, reduced from £28 to £17. I’d tried the Hermitage on Saturday and thought it was restrained and elegant, with a rather reticent nose. The Cline delivered a big blast of blueberry fruit on the nose and was tarry/smokey on the palate with a silky mouth feel and clearly wasn’t the Hermitage. Both wines were very enjoyable and well priced – although I don’t think we’d have paid £28 for the Hermitage – and drank well into the evening. (Geoff was having fish so I got both bottles).
[Geoff: Comparisons are at the heart of wine tasting. We compare in expectation – “I think this wine might be like …”; we compare via memory – “This wasn’t as good as …..”; and we compare grapes, vintages, areas, growers etc. And I especially love blind comparisons.
These two wines created lots of discussions which Richard had summarised excellently above. For me, the Hermitage had the edge on elegance and freshness because of the apparent higher acidity – I’d noted it as tasting like (another comparison) a bowl of summer fruits, both red and black. The Cline, slightly older, had developed some tertiary notes – tar, smoke, vanilla – which was shown up against the fresher Rhone. Both were lovely wines – well-made, layered and great examples of a lovely grape.]