Last weekend we presented a private wine tasting for a family Christmas party. The theme was the "Exciting Wines of Southern Italy." The group was relatively new to wine and were realy just familiar with California wines. Guess what, they will be shopping for Italian wines now. They loved the opportunity to taste and savor new grapes, new wines, from places they now plan to visit.
The tasting included Fiano, Inzolia, Primitivo, Aglianico and Nero D'avola. Bottles from Purglia, Sicily, Camapgnia and Basilicata. Here is what we tasted. Which wines do you think they liked the best?
Nino Franco Rustico Prosecco di Valdobbiadene, Veneto.
This of course is not from Southern Italy, but I’ve yet to find any sparkling wines from there, other than Rosamaro a sparkling Negroamaro from Masseria Altemura in Puglia, but have not found it in the States.
Nevertheless this is a beautiful wine from a beautiful vineyard in the beautiful region known as Conegliano Valdobbiadene in Trevisio, Veneto, Northern Italy. Nino Franco has been producing wine here since 1919, 3 generations of Franco's.
Tasters enjoyed the dry nature of this wine and loved the soft bubbles and citrus and apple flavors.
We then went on to our southern Italian wines. Starting with a Fiano di Avelino from Campagnia.
We love Fiano, both from Campania and Puglia. The wines from Avelino in Campagnia tend to be richer, deeper, more herbacious. Those from the east coast of Italy are brighter and lighter with "lovely crispness, with flavors of honeydew melon, wildflower honey and almond that blossom in a lively mouthful of flavor" Fiano of Puglia
The Fiano we tasted this night is produced by Feudi di San Gregorio Fiano di Avellino, Campania. This vineyard along with Mastroberardino were greatly responsible for the restoration and resurgance of the Avellino region which was nearing extinction in the 1980's.
Wine historians believe Fiano dates back to ancient Greek and Roman times. It is a small, thick-skinned grape that is difficult to grow. It has a low yield and usually produces very little juice, but what it gives is very good.
With the whites we had a orecchiette with sauteed garlic and beet greens.
The tasting was to be of mostly red wines. The guests loved this white wine so much I decided to open something off the list, another favorite, Insolia from Sicily.
Produced by Corvo this wine was also very well received, read more about Insolia here, Insolia the Great White Wine Grape of Sicily.
With these wines guests grazed on Italian cheese, olives and breads.
From there we went on to the reds. The tasting consisted of two wines of each of Southern Italy's most noted grapes, Primitivo, Aglianico, and Nero D'avola. One was in a "old world" traditional style the other in a "new world" creative style. Guess which grape and style was most favored. I was surprised.
An Italian Beef Barley Soup with Rosemary was the next course and with this we poured two Primativos.
The first from southern Puglia is a wonderful wine from Schola Sarmenti. This vineyard, born by Lorenzo Marra, owner, and wine maker, Alessandro Calabrese, was created to preserve and enhance the wine heritage of Puglia.
This wine is 100% Primitivo. It has nice dark cherry fruit but also herbaceous nutty undertones in a rich balanced wine. It is not like a typical Cali Zin bursting with strawberry and raspberry. This is "old world"wine.
We also sipped a wine from just east of Campania in northern Puglia called Tormaresca Neprica, a "new world" wine to my mind. It was a fuller, more fruity wine made with a blend of the grapes Negroamaro, Primitivo, and Cabernet Sauvignon with intense ruby red with violet hues, red fruits, black-cherry with light violet notes. Neprica
In this paring, after many sips and swallows, the Sarmenti won.
Next up was our two Aglianicos which we served with grilled steak and a beans and herbs dish.
Aglianico is a grape of a very ancient heritage. Originally brought to Italy by the Phoenicians from Greece, many centuries before Christ was born. Aglianico was famous in the ancient world for it's part in Falernian, a wine revered by kings and poets. A Wine of Kings and Poets - Aglianico. It is often considered to be the "Barolo of the south."
The first was Molettieri Taurasi Cinque Querce Aglianico Taurus , Campania.
This is a fabulous wines by one of the finest produccers in the region, Salvatore Molettieri.
Critics rave,"A new wave of wines from Campania that showcase how special the Aglianico grape can be." – Robert Parker, Jr.
"This house will be a prime source of superior aglianico for years to come… Salvatore Molettieri and his sons take risks for greater ripeness and quality.” -– Stephen Tanzer, IWC
"Molettieri owns some of the best-located vineyards in Taurasi and his wines are textbook, uncompromising examples of what Aglianico can do here." –- Stephen Tanzer, IWC
With intense ruby red, garnet colors and a nose of dried plum, sour cherry, cocoa, tobacco, sweet spices, and on the tongue it is rich, soft, quite tasty, warm, soft tannins, very intense, very long and pleasant finish. Old World.
The second was from another region, Basilicata. 2006 Elena Fucci Titolo Aglianico del Vulture.
The vineyard is on Mt. Vulture at 650 meters above sealevel the soil is pure black volcanic lava, also locally known as 'pozzolana'. "Titolo" is the name of this Lava channel or "costone", which came down from the now extinct Vulture volcano."
The wine maker is Elena Fucci who "makes one of the most fascinating wines of Basilicata. The 2006 Aglianico del Vulture Titolo is a dark, brooding wine loaded with violets, blackberry jam, new leather, earthiness, and cured meats. ..The full-throttle style may not be for everyone, but this wine delivers the goods and then some" said Wine Advocate awarding 93 Points to the 2006.
I loved this wine but it turned out to be too much for my new Italian wine drinkers who prefered the first.
Next on the list were two Nero D'avolas from Sicily. These ended up being the stars of the night. I was expecting them to be more powerful than the first two, but that was not the case. They were both a lot more fruit forward with fragrant red plum and roses.
"Nero d'Avola (Italian pronunciation: "Black of Avola" in Italian) is "the most important red wine grape in Sicily"and is one of Italy's most important indigenous varieties. It is named after Avola in the far south of Sicily and its wines are compared to New World Shirazes, with sweet tannins and plum or peppery flavours." Wikipedia
2011 Colosi Nero d'Avola, Messina Sicily
"Colosi's 2008 Nero d'Avola is a fresh, vinous offering loaded with perfumed red fruit. Ideally the wine needs a few months to recover from its recent bottling, as the full range of aromas and flavors remains rather muted at this stage. This soft, supple Nero d'Avola offers terrific quality for the money."--Antonio Galloni of Robert Parker's Wine Advocate
2009 Firriato Chiaramonte Nero d'Avola Paceco Sicily
Firriato is one of the Power Houses of Sicilian winemaking. In the beginning of the 80's, Salvatore and Vinzia had a dream of bringing Sicilian wines to high quality standards. Since then this tenacious entrepreneurial couple, with the help of top enologist Giuseppe Pellegrino, created a range of wines that suit the most refined palates. All of their wines are a mix of tradition and innovation, a mix of indigenous and international varieties that throughout the years defined Sicily as perfect land."--Winemaker Notes