Tag Archives: Sangiovese

Brunello glasses

Brunello of Montalcino: A Taste of the 2010 Vintage

By Maxine Howard

Montalcino, a small town in the southern part of Tuscany, is the only place winemakers can produce Brunello. It was the first to receive a DOCG designation guaranteeing the origin of this product. The grape from which Brunello is made is not unique: it is the Sangiovese grape grown around Italy and in other countries around the world. But this variety is Sangiovese Grosso, and the grapes are larger than those of the Sangiovese used in Chianti.

To be called Brunello, a Sangiovese must be:

  • Grown in Montalcino
  • Aged in oak two years
  • Aged in the bottle four months
  • Bottled in the production area
  • Beleased no sooner than January 1 of the fifth year following harvest

In addition, the wine must have a minimum alcohol content of 12.5%, although most are over 13%.

The terroir and climate vary through the growing area. The ground characteristics run from loose to rocky, the slopes have varying orientations, and the mild Mediterranean weather will have differing impact based upon placement of the vines. But there is one unifying characteristic to the Brunellos: they age slowly and retain their fruit and structure for many years.

The 2010 is said to be the best vintage in recent history, surpassing the previously revered wines of 1997. A major reason for the success of the 2010’s was the longer-than-usual growing season.

At a tasting of seven representative bottles from 2010, the strengths of Brunello and the variations among producers was on full display.

A bottle from Sassetti Livio Pertimali displayed what I considered classic traits for the wine: it had a pronounced aroma of dark fruit. On first taste rich, dark fruit came forward tempered by a wonderful earthiness. It displayed both roundness and length. The tannins were well controlled, but remained at the finish. This wine is aged for 36 months in Slavonian oak (from northeastern Croatia) and 6 months in the bottle. The alcohol content is 14%, and it retails in the US for $65.

Brunello

I had a very different tasting experience with the Brunello from Le Macioche. The producer says the grapes are harvested manually before vinification in wooden vats with spontaneous fermentation by wild yeast and a 25-day maceration period. The wine is aged for 36 months in oak and 14 months in the bottle. The wine announced its distinctiveness immediately with an aroma that was both floral and herbaceous. The taste was lean, with well-controlled fruit and a slightly tannic finish. It was startlingly different from the other Brunellos, but was very tasty on its own terms. The alcohol content is 14.5%.

BrunelloPerhaps my favorite bottle of the tasting was from Le Chiuse. This property is owned by the Biondi-Santi family, which was the original producer of Brunello. Le Chiuse ages its wine in Allier and Slovenian oak barrels for three years. The aroma was of dark fruit; the first sip demonstrated a richness, intensity, and body that demanded attention. The wine had great structure. Its tannins, although controlled, were still substantial. The wine will definitely benefit from additional aging, but you can already see that this is a great Brunello. The alcohol content is 14.27% and it retails in the US for $50 to $60.

Based upon this brief survey of the Brunellos of Montalcino, it is clear that the 2010 vintage is worth seeking out and cellaring for the future. It will pair well with a fine steak or leg of lamb, but will also be a great accompaniment to your cheese course.

Collazzi Liberta Toscana

AG Pick: Libertà dei Collazzi Toscana IGT 2012

Somehow Tuscany is both approachable and intimidating. Approachable because it’s one of the best known wine regions in Italy, thanks to Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino, “Super Tuscans” and an extremely photogenic landscape. Intimidating because of the number of wines produced and labels that may need deciphering to figure out what you’re drinking.

Today we’re sharing a Tuscan wine that doesn’t need an advanced sommelier degree to enjoy.

Collazzi Liberta Toscana 2012The Libertà Toscana IGT 2012 comes from the Collazzi estate just south of Florence in the heart of the Chianti Classico. Designated as IGT – Indicazione Geografica Tipica – this wine may be considered a Super Tuscan as it is made with non-native grapes and a small portion of Sangiovese (and thereby does not meet the stricter requirements for a DOC or DOCG designation).

Libertà means freedom, and is a reference to the Collazzi coat-of-arms. It is a blend of 55% Merlot, 30% Syrah and 15% Sangiovese. The grapes were hand harvested and the wine spent 10 months aging partly in oak barrels.

The wine opens with spiced red fruit aromas. Flavors of cherry and red currant mingle with cedar, nutmeg and balsamic. There is a hint of sun-baked tomatoes that calls to mind images of sun drenched Tuscan vineyards. Round tannins and a smooth, lingering finish make this a crowd-pleasing wine to sip with friends.

For more information on the wines of Collazzi visit collazziusa.com.

$24, 14% alcohol by volume

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Finding the Perfect Pairing: Allegrini Cook-Off for a Cause

Vino Venue was the location of a friendly food fight last Thursday for the Allegrini Palazzo della Torre Cook-Off for a Cause. Three top local chefs competed to see whose dish paired best with the Italian red wine for the chance to win a donation to their selected local charity.

Allegrini Cook-OffAllegrini is an estate and winery located in Fumane di Valpolicella, just north of Verona in northeastern Italy. Now in its third year, their Cook-Off for a Cause has traveled through eight U.S. cities and donated more than $35,000 to charity.

The competing chefs for the Atlanta cook-off were Ford Fry, Kevin Gillespie and John Metz. They were chosen because they all source locally and add importance to the community.

Chef Fry of JCT. Kitchen & Bar, No. 246, The Optimist and King + Duke was competing for City of Refuge, a non-profit organization that offers life saving resources and life building tools to Atlanta individuals and families who are living on the margin.

Chefs John Metz, Kevin Gillespie, Ford FryChef Gillespie of Gunshow was competing for the FitWit Foundation, which improves the lives of Atlanta children and teens through fitness, tutoring and personal development programs. Since 2008 more than 500 kids have participated in the program.

Chef Metz of Marlow’s Tavern, Aqua blue Restaurant & Bar and Sterling Spoon Culinary Management was competing for the Atlanta Community Food Bank. Founded in 1979 with the mission of fighting hunger, the ACFB procures more than 45 million pounds of food and groceries each year and distributes it to more than 600 nonprofit partner agencies in metro Atlanta and north Georgia.

Allegrini Cook-OffAs the chefs prepared their dishes, Marilisa Allegrini gave an overview of the estate and wine. Marilisa is the sixth generation of her family to work in the wine business and manages the winery with her two brothers.

The Palazzo della Torre is a blend of 70% Corvina, 25% Rondinella and 5% Sangiovese made in the ripasso style. After the harvest, 70% of the grapes were vinified immediately and 30% were left to dry until the end of December. The wine made at harvest was blended with the fermenting juice of the dried grapes, initiating a second fermentation. This winemaking style helps to create a more complex and concentrated wine. The wine spent 15 months in one year-old French oak barriques.

The Allegrini Palazzo della Torre is dark ruby red in color, with an intense dark berry aroma and flavors of blackberries, ripe and dried cherries, mocha and dates.

Allegrini chefsThe chefs had a couple of weeks to get to know the wine and come up with their dishes. Guests were asked to judge each dish based on three criteria: the dish on its own, the uniqueness of the dish and how well it paired with the wine.

Up first was Chef Fry, who paired the Palazzo della Torre with Pekin duck risotto. Duck stock added a rich flavor to the Arborio rice, which had duck cracklings, foraged mushrooms and herbs folded in. Rich without being heavy, the risotto matched the elegance of the wine.

For the second round Chef Gillespie served a smoked cabbage dumpling with country sausage, caramelized turnips and potato puree. The smoky and savory flavors in the dumpling paired nicely with the cherry notes and tannins in the wine.

The final round was a rustic country rigatoni from Chef Metz. The pasta was served with oregano roasted chicken, sausage meatball, oven roasted tomato, baby escarole, oyster mushroom, canellini beans and parmesan cheese. Hearty and with layers of flavor, the pasta complemented the layered and complex wine.

After dining, discussing and casting votes it was time to announce the results. The winner: Chef John Metz, who thanked the audience and spoke passionately about his cause. The Atlanta Community Food Bank will receive $3,000 from Allegrini.

Chef Kevin Gillespie came in second, and Chef Ford Fry came in third. Their causes will receive $2,000 and $1,000 respectively.

Allegrini wines are imported by Winebow. For more information on Allegrini visit www.allegrini.it.

photo credit: Sarah Dodge, dodgeandburned.com (first three photos in article)

Allegrini chefs

AG Pick: Tenuta Frescobaldi di Castiglioni 2010

Serving ham or lamb at your Easter meal or looking for a red wine for a dinner with friends? Try a bottle of the Tenuta Frescobaldi di Castiglioni 2010, a red blend from Tuscany.

Tenuta FrescobaldiThis wine is what is often called a “Super Tuscan” – a red wine from Tuscany that contains Sangiovese and a blend of other grapes, most often Bordeaux varieties. The Tenuta Frescobaldi di Castiglioni contains 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 12% Cabernet Franc and 8% Sangiovese. The wine spent 12 months maturing in barriques and additional two months in the bottle before it was released.

Red fruits dominate the aromas and flavors of the Tenuta Frescobaldi di Castiglioni. Notes of cherry, red currant, plum and strawberry are layered with gentle flavors of cedar. Cinnamon, nutmeg, ground coffee and a touch of black pepper add depth. Subtle tannins give the wine a pleasing mouthfeel, and the acidity is fresh and well balanced.

The Tenuta Frescobaldi di Castiglioni is a wine that should be served with food, rather than sipped on its own. Pair it with lamb, roasted or sautéed beef, pork or rabbit.

Tenuta Frescobaldi di Castiglioni is imported by Folio Fine Wine Partners, a Michael Mondavi Family Company. For more about the wines from Marchesi de’ Frescobaldi visit www.frescobaldi.it.

$25, 13.5% alcohol by volume

More Red Wines | White Wines | Under $20

Simply Italian: Tasting Notes from the Italian Wine Tour

By Maxine Howard

Italian winemakers and their representatives took over the St. Regis Hotel in San Francisco earlier this autumn for the Simply Italian great wine tour. With stops in Chicago and Las Vegas, the tour offered the chance to share the wide variety of magic Italian winemakers weave with their grapes.

More than fifty wineries from all over Italy poured their best wines at seminars and the grand tasting. While some were established labels, others came to the United States to find importers for their brands.

Seminars highlighted the range of grapes grown and the full gamut of wines produced all over Italy. At one session fourteen wines took participants on a fascinating tour. We started with non-vintage Prosecco from Carpenè Malvolti that demonstrated the fruity aroma yet dry finish of this sparkling wine.

Moving through a procession of increasingly complex whites, we continued to some remarkable reds. The 2005 Rubesco Riserva Vigna Monticchio from Cantine Giorgio Lungarotti, a blend of 70% Sangiovese and 30% Canaiolo, was one of the most complex of the tasting with notes of dark cherries and silky tannins. The 2006 Mille E Una Notte (meaning 1001 nights) from Donnafugata was another spectacular red blend. This contained 90% Nero d’Avola and 10% of “the best grapes harvested at Contessa Entellina in 2006.” The aroma was of dark fruits and the taste had a great balance of fruit and earthiness with a slight tannic finish.

Simply Italian might be a misnomer, as the variety of grapes, wines and regions was anything but simple. Among the variety of interesting wines here are several that stood out:

Perla Del Garda is a small producer from Lonato, a town in Lombardy in northern Italy. Coming from generations of farmers, this brother/sister team started releasing their own wines only a few years ago. Their white wine, Perla 2009, comes from the Lugana region within Lombardy. It is produced from Trebbiano grapes. Very tasty, the wine was crisp and flinty with a slightly smoky touch. Their red, Terre Lunari, is a blend consisting of 80% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Cabernet Franc. It showed nice fruit, tempered by the earthiness of the Cabernet Franc and soft tannins.

From the island of Sardinia came Argiolas with flavorful, distinctive wines. The 2010 Costamolino is a white wine made from the Vermentino grape. It had notes of tropical fruit with a slight sweetness reminded me of a Riesling. The 2008 Perdera comes primarily from Monica grapes. It had a gorgeous deep red color, with dark fruit flavors culminating with a peppery finish. The 2005 Turriga is 85% Cannonau grapes with 5% each of Carignano, Bovale Sardo and Malvasia Nera. This medium bodied, food friendly wine was one of my favorites.

Valentina Cubi brought a great range of wines using basically the same grapes from the Veneto region in northeast Italy. I was impressed at the different tastes that are all called Valpolicella (the name of the region within Veneto). The 2009 Iperico was a lighter red with nice flavor. It was made from 65% Corvina, 25% Rondinella and 10% Molinara. The 2004 Morar was a well made, full bodied wine of greater complexity. It was composed of 70% Corvina, 25% Corvinone and 5% Rondinella. The third Valpolicella, a 2005 Arusnatico, had the same composition as the Iperico but tasted altogether different. The distinction is that the Arusnatico undergoes a second fermentation on the stems in February. This treatment produces a deep red, well-structured wine that is both fruity and spicy. It fills the mouth and finishes with silky tannins.

For a wine lover constantly in search of new tastes, this mini tour of the varieties of Italian wine beyond Pinot Grigio and Chianti was quite a revelation. I recommend trying bottles from different grape varieties to compare with your old standards for a fresh experience.

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Maxine Howard is the West Coast correspondent for the Amateur Gastronomer.