Marchesi Di Barolo ‘Maraia’ Barbera Del Monferrato DOC 2014

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Estate: Marchesi di Barolo consists of 430 acres of vineyards located in the distinguished Barolo region of Piedmont in Italy. Their vineyards are in some of the most renowned areas of Barolo, including the prestigious Cannubi cru. 185 acres are estate owned, with 245 acres farmed by long standing relationships with family and friends. The family estate has been passed down from parents to their children for over 200 years and is currently headed by 5th generation winemakers Anna and Ernesto Abbona. They maintain the work established by their ancestors and value the great heritage of knowledge and tradition that allows them to continue crafting quality wines.

Winemaking: Grapes are sourced from sustainably farmed vineyards located in the community of Maranzana in the Asti area. The soil is calcareous sand, clay, and rich in quartz. Aged for 1 year in Slavonian oak barrels. The name Maraia refers to “a group of rowdy kids, or ‘little rascals’, in Piedmontese dialect, referring to the lively nature of this wine”.

Tasting Notes: Transparent garnet in colour with aromas of cherry, sour cherry, sweet wild flowers, and pepper spice. Rhubarb along with tart, sour and regular cherry interlace with silky tannins. Mouth puckering acidity backs tart blackberry and sour cherry on the dry finish. A bit too astringent for my personal taste, others may find it refreshing with fatty foods.

Pairing Suggestions from the Winery: Pairs well with a wide variety of dishes, from antipasto to pasta with red sauce and light meals.

100% Barbera
Barbera Del Monferrato DOC
Italy
Bottled by Marchesi Di Barolo
13% Alcohol
$10
Enjoy now

Castello Monaci ‘Liante’ Salice Salentino DOC 2014

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Estate: Housed in a 16th century castle with medieval foundations once run by Basiliani monks with a long winemaking tradition, Castello Monaci is located along the Adriatic Sea in Puglia, southeastern Italy. The estate is owned and run by Lina Memmo, whose family has owned the property since the 19th century, along with her husband Vitantonio Seracca Guerrieri. The estate is dedicated to a sustainable philosophy of the cultivation of indigenous grapes such as Primitivo, Negroamaro and Malvasia Nera.

Winemaking: Grapes are sourced from certified sustainable estate vineyards. Fermented in stainless steel, followed by 6 months “in the cellar where 25% the wine will rest in French oak and the remainder in stainless steel”. The name ‘Liante’ is the name of the “wind of the Levant” which blows across the Adriatic region.

Tasting Notes: Dark garnet in colour with aromas of dark berries with a shake of crushed pink peppercorn. Inviting blackberry, black cherry, a hint of bitter dark chocolate and smoky herbs culminate in a clean fruit finish with the distinctive bitter edge Negroamaro is renowned for. Rustic and easy drinking, super versatile at the table.

80% Negroamaro, 20% Malvasia Nera di Lecce
Salice Salentino DOC
Italy
Bottled in the own cellars by Castello Monaci
13% Alcohol
$11
Enjoy now thru 2019

Rated 88 points by Wine Spectator

Villa Pozzi Nero d’Avola Sicilia DOC 2015

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Winery: For many generations the Pozzi Family has been making and selling wine. Beginning in Cremona, northern Italy the current owner’s great grandfather established relationships with local growers and producers and travelled throughout Italy selling their wines. The winery and vineyards were established in northwestern Sicily in 1860, today 4th generation winemaker Daniele Pozzi, who continues expanding the family’s connections, heads the estate.

Philosophy: The family’s motto is “Res non Verba” [Deeds not Words], and aims to produce high quality wines at affordable prices.

Winemaking: All of their wines are “made to be enjoyed upon release and have a ripe, fruit-forward style”. Vineyards are located in the hills surrounding Marsala, Salemi and Mazzara del Vallo in northwestern Sicily and have an average vine age of 25 years. Grapes were sourced from hillside vineyards with clay soils in western Sicily. “Finished in stainless steel instead of oak, which lets the fresh fruit character of Sicily’s native Nero d’Avola grape shine through.”

Dark garnet in colour with aromas of cherry pie, spiced oak and dusty earth. Cherry driven with streaks of pomegranate, red currant and sour cherry dusted with a shake of white pepper. Baked cherry, vanilla and toasted oak comprise the dry, lengthy finish. A good value and companion to everyday dishes like pizza and pasta.

Pairing Suggestions from the Winery: Enjoy with rich pastas and grilled meats.

Nero d’Avola [I could not verify varietal percentage, although it must be at least 80% for DOC status.]
Sicilia DOC
Italy
Produced and Bottled by Cantine Europa SCA
13% Alcohol
$7
Enjoy now

Pio Cesare Dolcetto d’Alba DOC 2014

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Estate: Founded in 1881 by Cesare Pio, Pio Cesare has been producing wine consecutively through 5 generations and for over 135 years. Located in the Piedmont region of northwestern Italy, the estate consists of 70 hectares [173 acres] of vineyards. The estate is headed by Pio Boffa, Cesare Pio’s great-grandson, his daughter, Federica Rosy, along with his nephew and cousin.

The estate has vineyards in different locations; 32 hectares in Barolo, 27 hectares in Barbaresco and 10 hectares in other regions, including Alba. These vineyard sites were specifically selected as an expression of the family’s philosophy of crafting wines. Since its establishment, the family has a “strong belief in blending the different characteristics of each vineyard and region in order to produce wines that represent the styles of each appellation terroir as a whole, instead of individual sites. This was the classic method of producing Barolo, Barbaresco and the other classic wines at the end of the 19th century and it still remains our Family’s philosophy, today and in the future.” In addition to his dedication to preserving the individuality of each terroir, Pio is also a pioneer in bringing the Barbera grape to the forefront of Italian winemaking.

Their cellar is one of the few ancient cellars that are still in operation. Located in the historical center of the town of Alba, the cellar was built in the late 1700’s, and is delimited and surrounded by ancient Roman walls that date all the way back to 50 BC. The cellar actually occupies 4 different levels, one of which is lower then the Tanaro River. This unique phenomenon is intrinsic to the character of the wines the family has crafted over the many years: “The naturally constant temperatures and appropriate humidity of our cellars have been crucial for the style and quality of our wines over the years.”

I was very fortunate to meet Pio last year. Gregarious and expressive as his wines, with the belief that upon meeting you, you are considered family and always welcomed at his home and winery.

Winemaking: Grapes were sourced from estate vineyards in Treiso “along with very selected vineyards of “historical suppliers” who have been growing their grapes for our Family for generations. The growers have been working with Pio Cesare for generations and work according to their direction and with strict quality controls.” Vinified and aged in stainless steel tanks.

Tasting Notes: Transparent red-violet in colour with aromas of cherry, white pepper, herbs and a hint of summer earth. An herbaceous streak runs thru tart cherry and raspberry flavours. Bitter almond along with a hint of dark chocolate are given a shake of white pepper on the fantastically dry finish. Silky tannins envelop each sip; the engaging synergy of fruit/spice/savoury elements keeps you reaching for more.

100% Dolcetto
Dolcetto d’Alba DOC
Italy
Estate Bottled by Pio Cesare
12.5% Alcohol
$20 [average price]
Enjoy now

Benvenuto Brunello: Agile to Brooding, each with its own Story to Tell

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I was delighted to spend an entire day welcoming the 2012 Brunello di Montalcino vintage at Gotham Hall in NYC! Hosted by Jeff Porter, acclaimed wine director for Mario Batali and Joseph Bastianich restaurants, along with the Consorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino, the seminar and following walk around tasting was a fantastic way in which to become immersed with the latest vintage of Brunello.

Montalcino is in Tuscany, the central region of Italy and is bordered by the rivers Ombrone, Asso and Orcia. It is located 40 km from the sea and 100km from the Apennine Mountains and has a Mediterranean climate. Wine and olive oil have been crafted there for over 2000 years. Etruscan wine amphorae [clay jars], dating to the 4th century BC, along with numerous documented mentions regarding the wines of Montalcino from Medieval times on, testify to the continuous production in such an esteemed area.

Although it has the dimensions of a small square box, it is not a homogenous territory; the climate, soil and altitude all play a part in creating different terroir. Situated on a hill, the soils differ immensely from area to area, most drastically seen with loose soil at the lowest areas that increase in minerals as one goes higher up the hill. At one time many, many years ago the area was actually underwater; the soil is loaded with crushed marine sediment, especially marl [or mudstone, a clay soil with high amounts of calcium carbonate] and limestone.

The seminar was a great window into the factors that comprised the 2012 vintage, and an opportunity to immerse oneself in their character. Following are my impressions:

• The Brunello region consists of 24,000 hectares, 3500 hectares of which is vineyard, 2000 hectares devoted to Brunello vines amongst 250 producers. 30% of all Brunello is imported into the United States.

• Rather significantly, 2012 has been given a 5 star rating from the Consorzio. This occurs in about 25% of vintages.

• The movement towards sustainability and organic farming continues to increase. There isn’t a lot of disease to fight, and producers are witnessing the multitude of advantages to environmentally conscious methods. The current estimate has 15-20% of estates organic and/or biodynamic.

• Brunello are known for their incredibly lengthy ageing capabilities, however this doesn’t mean they need to be cellared for 10 years in order to be enjoyed. Ultimately, ageing is subjective. It depends on your personal taste; do you enjoy more fruit and acidity? Or are you a fan of less fruit and subtler earth/mineral flavours? All producers feel that the wines are drinking now, or can be cellared. Personally, I feel that many I tasted needed a couple of more years to fully develop; however that doesn’t prevent me from enjoying a few bottles now!

• As with many Italian wines, All Brunello is intended to go with food; “they’re not cocktails”.

• The weather was erratic and unpredictable in 2012. The year started off dry without any snowfall. Brunello is one of the most arid regions in Tuscany, they rely on snow for ground water, and so this was problematic. February saw lots of snow, but unfortunately it was late and stunted the vines a bit. Next up were Torrential downpours that struck right in the middle of flowering, causing more loss. May thru August was incredibly hot, then absolute perfection arrived in the middle of august and continued thru to September. Many winemakers feel that the vintage was really made in those final 8 weeks.

• Due to the above listed circumstances, the 2012 harvest was one of the smallest in many years, the turbulent weather ultimately reducing the production by about one-third. Grapes were small and the bunches themselves also small, leading to fantastic overall grape quality. The smaller the better with Sangiovese, as smaller berries retain their fruit flavours, aromas and acidity better.

• Overall, the consensus from winemakers and all of us fortunate enough to have tasted numerous 2012 bottles, is that the wines are bright with ripe fruit and acidity, and have a “pretty” quality about them. Some have seen this as a return to more elegant, classic, traditional styled Brunello. Others, such as famed wine critic James Suckling considers their “vibrant fruit, lively acidity, and ultra-fine tannins” to be wonderfully bold and intense; a “rockstar” vintage.

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The seminar presented 7 wines from the 2012 vintage. Whilst all were fantastic, below are the ones that I found to be most engaging,
All are 100% Sangiovese.

Talenti Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2012

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Hailing from the southwestern part of the region, accessible and easygoing in character. Bright layers of red berry fruit, pepper spice and earth with an herbaceous streak. Baking spices pair up with berries on the plush finish.
15% Alcohol
$50

Collosorbo Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2012

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Not as complex as most, but with it’s own identity. Strikingly meaty, with dark fruit and clay minerals culminating in a lengthy, pepper spice finish. Rich and brooding, just lovely.
14% Alcohol
$50

La Magia Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2012

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So new, its label hasn’t caught up yet.

Elegant and mineral driven. Cherry, flinty minerals and spice glide atop silky tannins, culminating in a dry fruit and clay mineral finish. Delightful and engaging, this would be fantastic with just about any dish.
14.5% Alcohol
$40

Loacker Corte Pavone Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2012

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From the famed biodynamic pioneering Loacker family, this is a powerful expression of Brunello. [Coincidentally perhaps also the darkest shade of garnet seen in the 7 wines.] Velvety and intense with layers of fruit, spice and floral notes. Licorice and a hint of bitter chocolate linger on the plush finish. With its velvety softness and well-integrated, dynamic flavours, this was not only a personal favourite, but also that of many of my fellow attendees.
15% Alcohol
$75

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A study in contrast: the dark, inky garnet Loacker on the left, transparent ruby red of the Pian delle Querci on the right.

Pian delle Querci Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2012

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In direct contrast to the Loacker Brunello, this hails from the far north of Montalcino and was the lightest in colour. Agile and bright with an herbaceous edge [think pine and cypress] to the vivid strawberry and blackberry fruit, energizing savory elements and traces of bitter cherry comprise the wonderfully dry finish.
14% Alcohol
Currently not imported into the US

A study in character, from elegant to agile to powerful to brooding, each bottle with its own story to tell.
Cheers!

Media event hosted by the Consorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino