A few nights ago, I was in Milan (Italy) and I went to dinner with a friend of mine to an excellent restaurant that I will review in a future post.
Beside eating wonderfully, my friend and I decided to treat ourselves to a very special Italian red wine that I had noticed on the wine list, had never had before but had heard and read excellent things about: the fabled, divisive, extremely rare to find Oasi degli Angeli, “Kurni” Marche Rosso IGT ($100) from the Marche region.
The Bottom Line
Overall, the Kurni is a great wine and a very special one, one which in my view does not leave whoever is fortunate enough to get to taste it indifferent: it is a wine that forces you to pick a side, either you like its style or you do not. Personally, I liked it a lot, I am glad I got to enjoy it and I found it a pleasure to drink, worth seeking out if you come across it and want to treat yourself to something really special.
(Explanation of our Rating and Pricing Systems)
About the Estate
A few words about Kurni and the vineyards it comes from: it is a wine made of 100% Montepulciano grapes harvested from about 10 hectares only of Montepulciano grapevines trained as free-standing plants (according to the bush vine training or “alberello” style) with an average age of 65 years and an astounding density of up to 22,000 vines/HA(!) which allow an annual production of just about 6,000 bottles. The Kurni ages for 20 months in new oak barrique barrels.
About the Grape
Before we continue, let’s focus for a moment on the Montepulciano grape variety. First off, let’s dispel a possible source of confusion: although the name refers to the Montepulciano area near Siena (Tuscany), the Montepulciano grape variety is an Italian indigenous variety that originates from the Abruzzo region. Consequently, it is important NOT to confuse Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG (which is a Tuscan appellation whose wines must be made of 70% or more Sangiovese grapes) with Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC or Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Colline Teramane DOCG (which are two appellations from Abruzzo whose wines are required to be made out of at least, respectively, 85% or 90% Montepulciano grapes).
Montepulciano is a grape variety that is widely planted across central Italy (about 30,000 HA), especially in the regions of Abruzzo, Marche and Molise. Beside Italy, it is also grown in California, Australia and New Zealand. It is a grape variety that results in deeply colored wines with robust tannins, that are often used in blends. On account of the wide diffusion of Montepulciano grapes, the quality levels of the wines made out of them varies considerably – hence, caveat emptor: you need to know which producers to trust and buy from. (Note: information on the grape variety taken from Wine Grapes, by Robinson-Harding-Vouillamoz, Allen Lane 2012)
Our Detailed Review
But let’s get back to the wine that we are going to review in this post. Retailing in the US at about $100 a pop, the Kurni is by no means an inexpensive wine, nor is it an easy to find one, but let me say it up front in my view it is one that is worth the investment if you come across it and have the inclination to “invest” that kind of money in a bottle of wine. But let’s get down to it using a simplified version of the ISA wine tasting protocol that we described in a previous post: should you have doubts as to any of the terms used below please refer to that post for a refresher.
First off, the bottle of Kurni we had was a 2008 vintage with a whopping 15% VOL ABV, so it is no wine for the faint of heart. 😉
In the glass, the wine was ruby red and (as you may expect) thick.
The nose was intense and fine, with complex aromas of ripe cherries, raspberries, plums, roses, vanilla, sweet tobacco, licorice and cocoa.
In the mouth the wine is between dry and medium-dry (see more on this below), definitely warm and super silky smooth; fresh, with tame but very present tannins and quite tasty. The wine is full-bodied and balanced (although certainly leaning toward the “softness” side), intense in the mouth (you truly have to taste it to believe this: its concentration is incredible, it is just like an explosion of ripe, sweet red fruits and cherry jam in your mouth!), fine with corresponding mouth flavors and a long finish; its evolutionary state is ready (which means that you can certainly drink it now, but it will get even better with a few more years under the belt – if you can wait!)
As a side note to the tasting, I think it is important to underscore that a notable characteristic of a relatively young vintage of this wine (such as 2008) is the discernible mouth feel of latent sweetness of the Kurni, which (as indicated in the tasting notes) places it somewhere in between a dry a semi-dry wine. In the Italian wine aficionado world, there have been endless discussions as to whether this latent sweetness is due to fairly high residual sugar levels or instead the significant extent of smoothness and explosive fruit flavors of the wine.
In an interview, Kurni’s enologist defined his wine as a dry wine, therefore supporting the latter of the above two theories. Also, vertical tastings of several vintages of Kurni have reportedly confirmed this interpretation in that older vintages would taste drier than younger vintages (which would not be possible if the wine’s latent sweetness were due to higher residual sugars). Having said that, I think it would be helpful if Oasi degli Angeli made the official residual sugar level of the Kurni publicly available (I have not been able to find this information anywhere online), as this could put an end to the debate.
Oh, and by the way: should you not trust my opinion – would you? really? 😉 the Kurni 2008 was awarded the top rating by both the ISA Duemila Vini wine guide (5 bunches) and the Gambero Rosso wine guide (3 glasses).
If you have had a bottle of Kurni before, let me know which side you are on! 🙂